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Gov't consultation paper sent to premiers

Proposed royal commission is likely to go further than any inquiry conducted in Australia before, due to geographical scale and time abuse occurred.

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THE federal government's royal commission into child sexual abuse is expected to be the biggest inquiry held in Australia, involving thousands of victims and hundreds of organisations.

A government consultation paper sent to premiers on Monday flags that the massive investigation - lasting years and probing religious and secular organisations as well as government bodies - is set to facilitate victims making compensation claims and will be able to refer matters to the police as it goes along.

With this week's Age/Nielsen poll showing 95 per cent support for the commission, the government is asking the states and stakeholders to provide written feedback by next Monday on the terms of reference and the inquiry's form and timetable. The paper has also been sent to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, Greens leader Christine Milne, crossbenchers and stakeholders.

Asked about the poll result, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said her government would need to carefully handle the public's high expectations.

''The best we can do is to be consultative and be clear about what we are trying to do and what we are trying to achieve,'' Ms Gillard said in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, where she is attending the East Asian Summit.

Despite its length the commission will have a timetable, reporting progressively to give governments, institutions and organisations the opportunity to act on early findings and recommendations.

''The proposed royal commission is likely to go further than any inquiry conducted in Australia before, due to geographical scale and the time over which the child sexual abuse is reported to have occurred in institutions,'' the consultation paper says.

While the government will use the feedback to set the details, the directions of the commission are clear from the paper.

In a response to those concerned that the commission will not look at child abuse outside institutions, the paper says the government acknowledges that abuse occurs in other contexts, including families. It is a crime and should be reported to police, it says.

The commission will be asked to identify what can be done to prevent child sexual abuse; how organisations and institutions should react when allegations are raised; and ways to alleviate the impact of abuse. It will provide an opportunity for victims to share their experiences if they wish.

Its findings and recommendations may extend to:

■Ensuring there is no obstacle to the making of claims and that there is sufficient support for victims pursuing claims.

■Identifying impediments within institutions and organisations to the proper notification, investigation and prevention of abuse.

■The need for changes to laws, policies or practices within institutions, organisations and government agencies to better prevent and respond to abuse.

■The impact of changes to laws, policies and practices over time.

■The counselling and support needed for victims.

''The commission should provide an avenue to identify any policy, legal, administrative or structural reforms required to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children is central to the policies and practices of all organisations who engage with children,'' the paper says.

It stresses that the Commonwealth and states will need to work together. The commission needs access to information held by the states so that ''no individual, institution or organisation can avoid scrutiny''.

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said Victoria would make no financial contribution to the commission but would seek to co-operate once the terms of reference were revealed.

While Ms Gillard said the government was flexible about the Monday deadline for feedback, it wants arrangements finalised this year so the inquiry can begin work early next year.

Victims groups welcomed the call for feedback, although Nicky Davis, of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said a week was not enough time.

A spokesman for Broken Rites, Bernard Barrett, said: ''We look forward to some early action.''

With LINDSAY MURDOCH and BARNEY ZWARTZ

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